One of the first items on your business startup agenda is to learn what regulations you will need to follow at the local, regional, state and national level. It could be a setback of major proportions to discover that you should have a special type of permit for your business and that the government can require you to stop doing business until you have corrected the problem.
EXAMPLE: If you are in the restaurant or other food-related business, you will need to comply with health-related requirements. This might mean dealing with your local health department for permits to store and handle food; the zoning commission will be interested in a preliminary site analysis. Further, you will also need to be aware of license and permit requirements for serving alcohol or to have a sidewalk café, and you will need to have a plan for litter removal.
Making sure that your business is complying with regulations and has the necessary licenses and permits is a challenge. As you begin learning the steps you will need to take for your particular business, it might be helpful to think of each of the governmental entities that may be regulating your business—at the federal, state and local level. (In some cases, regional authorities may also have requirements.)
This is confusing! Where should I start looking to make sure my business is complying with all the rules?
For starters, your business is likely part of a national trade organization. For instance, if you are in the retail business, the National Retail Federation has members from all kinds of retail businesses. Their Web site provides links to state retail federations. A more specific trade group is Shop.org which is comprised of Internet-based merchants.
Where else can I look?
Many public libraries have business resource sections that can be helpful. For instance, the New York Public Library has a section on its Web site that gives an overview of regulations in New York City and New York State and provides links to many resources that can help a you track down what is necessary for your specific business.